I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve right now. After a crazy offseason that saw all kinds of changes in the bass fishing world, finally, we’re about to get this season started.
It’s about dang time.
Right now I’m in Florida practicing for the first Bassmaster Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain. If you know anything about Florida, you know what’s coming this week. I’m talking about Big Ole Bass getting ready to spawn. These Florida fish are super romantic about their spawn. They take their good old time. It’s not like it is in South Carolina where I live. The bass around my house will spawn out in about two weeks. It’s a rush job. But in Florida, they stretch it out. It’s on their mind for months. They wait around for perfect conditions – like the ones we’re supposed to have this week – and then they slide up there and do their thing.
As far as practice goes, I’ve got an important strategy this year. There’s no limit to how long someone can practice in the Opens, but I’m only practicing about two and a half days. That’s the amount of time I’ll get to practice when I qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. It wouldn’t make much sense to go practice seven or eight days when I won’t get that much time once I qualify up. Instead, I’ll work on finding fish quickly.
Two and a half days is plenty of time anyway, if you use the time right. I learned that on the FLW Tour, where we got three days to practice. If I can’t figure them out in that amount of time, I’m not figuring them out at all.
Thankfully, I’ve got some history on the Kissimmee Chain to get me started. I’ve been there twice before. The biggest thing I’ve learned about fishing there, and in Florida in general, is that it’s very area driven. The fish use the same areas every year. They might move within those areas, but the areas they use are the same.
I’ll spend a good chunk of my practice in places where I’ve found fish before, just trying to dial in the two or three things I have confidence doing in Florida. Confidence is big for me. At this point in my career, I know what works for me, and I know how I can be successful. I won’t bother worrying about anything else. If I can just get a few bites in an area, I’ll be confident I can figure them out in the tournament. Then I’ll go explore other areas nearby and prepare a rescue plan for possible weather changes.
Most importantly, I won’t put too much pressure on myself. Pressure kills at this level. You have to avoid mental fatigue.
If you fish tournaments, you know what I’m talking about. When you’re struggling, you start to have negative thoughts, and it starts to affect your decision-making. That’s mental fatigue.
I’m pretty intense when I’m fishing, but if I feel that negativity creeping in, I’ll sit down and just scroll through social media for a few minutes to decompress. If I have to, I’ll come in early. That might surprise you, but it’s true. I used to think I had to fish from daylight to dark, and I wouldn’t even stop fishing long enough to talk to anyone during practice. But now, maybe because I’m older and I understand the game better, I recognize how important it is to avoid burnout.
Staying in control of the mental side of fishing will be big for me this year because I’ll be dealing with a different kind of tournament. There’ll be 100 more boats on the water in some of the Opens compared to last season on the FLW Tour. Plus, we’ll have co-anglers. Trust me, I’m not knocking co-anglers at all. But it’s a different dynamic having all those extra boats and extra anglers on the water, especially in Florida, where we’ll all be sharing the best areas.
The way I’ll stay in control is to focus on my process. That’s all I ever do. I’m not worried about where I finish in the standings, or what I have to do to make the Elite Series, because I don’t set results-oriented goals. I set process-oriented goals. You might not believe me, but I promise you that’s how I’ve always dealt with any sport I’ve competed in.
My goal is to always get better at my craft – at catching fish. I want to get better at the process. I’m talking about making smart decisions when the weather changes, having my boat and tackle prepared, using my practice time wisely – stuff like that. I want to perfect all the little things that it takes to win, because that’s what I can control, and the little things have to go right for big things to happen. I promise you that’s the key to success.
In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to watch how I go about breaking down the Kissimmee Chain. The video should drop next week.